Pushes and Pulls – Stone and Feather can co-exist

In the words of Langston Hughes

What happens to dream deferred?
Does it dry up?
Like a raisin in the sun
Or fester like a sore
And then run
Does it stink like a rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over
Like a syrupy sweet?
May be it just sags
Like a heavy load
Or does it explode?

I have dreams, I had dreams. From the moment we are born, we’ve been pushed and pulled. Pushed into the unknown and pulled out of the known. Later pushed into the known and pulled from the unknown. Predictability and uncertainty becomes something to fear. We are told what decisions are good and bad. We have no choice; our only path is to follow someone, try to avoid mistakes already made but in the end we will replace someone, we will sit where he sits, we will do what he did and we will be replaced just the way he was. And we believe that to change something is already too late; the only option left for us it to escape.

I did escape. My path so far hasn’t been any different yet it did make a difference. When I look back at the path, albeit short, I have traversed so far I realize that it was pathless. I had to carve for myself. Arrogant and optimistic then, I was told to embrace certainty. I felt heavy like the stone! I questioned its being. I weighed its pain and I escaped. I ran as far as I could only to realize that I didn’t move. Life is predictable just like the existence of this stone.

But I chose to take unknown turns and cross uncharted territories. You ask, wasn’t I petrified? Hell yes! I was scared. Afraid of the endless tunnel. Horrified of the bottomless spit. Yes, I was frustrated and I wanted to explode. I did explode. Not once but many times. I felt the heaviness.

My intuitions drove me. The meaning of ‘the call’ became clearer with time. It happened in 2011 when the opportunity to teach landed. I was apprehensive to accept the responsibility. Thirty pair of eyes staring at you! Gosh it was scary. There were instances when I broke down. Challenging, but it was an onset of a journey. Soon, there came a point where I felt the need to shed old feathers and grow new ones. The need to take a flight was felt by me. Just at that time ‘I AM A TEACHER’ happened. And even now my intuitions guided me.

Fearless, I took the flight to explore and discover. You ask what? There is a lot. You ask me when and how? It is happening now.

It isn’t that we don’t have a choice. We do. The choice isn’t between this that, either or, less more, fill pour. You ask who decides? You, I, We.

Pallavi Sharma, Alumnus, I Am A Teacher

The Magic of the WEB

It had been 2 weeks since the beginning of the new session for the children. The transition, I felt, seemed smooth since they had not been shuffled. We were actually supposed to play this game in the first week after the session began but just helping the kids feel comfortable with the new class and new teachers took time.

Last week, since there was so much familiarity among the kids, they began to complain a lot about each other. So we decided, this was the time to help them connect with each other. Also, we had started to talk about being responsible for our own books, pencils, tables & chairs, etc.

We, my partner and I, moved all the tables and chairs to one side, sat down on the floor with the children in a circle and first waited for them to settle. Then, the teacher showed them the ball of wool and said,”We will be playing a little game today. We have been talking about this class as a family, so let’s see how we can all be connected.” She then went on to explain the rules to the children. “I will begin by throwing this ball of wool towards someone while holding one end of it and before I throw it, I will take a pledge. I will be responsible for one thing, be it in school or at home and will take care of that thing always and try not to break my pledge.”

The children were anxious and restless, awaiting their turns. The teacher held one end of the wool, took her pledge and threw the ball of wool to me. I, in turn, took my pledge, looped the string on my finger and passed on the wool to a student. This went on, of course not smoothly as the kids would keep raising their hands or prompting their friends to throw the ball to them. After 5-7 passes, they began to see the magic. The web was taking shape and the children let out gasps and “wows!!”.

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It was surprising to hear the pledges they took. Some pledged to care for their younger siblings, while some pledged to care for their books. Some for their plants at home and some for their pets. Of course, parents, teachers and friends too were mentioned, but just to think of something like this, a responsibility like this at such a young age, I was amazed! We really do underestimate kids now-a-days.

The web got more complex but the children seemed more settled & calm and somehow, the vibes too of the class felt very positive. It was like we had just finished a very sacred and calming session of MPL (Mindful Personal Leadership).

Megha Jobanputra, Alumnus, I Am A Teacher

Decoding Impossible

Muhammad Ali

The fear of inadequacy of your own self is what it makes things impossible. But is the fear based on incomplete realisation of self or just the fear of failure. If we have fear of failure but have never failed then how can we fear it and we have failed, then why fear it. Shouldn’t the failure be in itself be the spirit to work towards; turning it around and conquering that fear.

So what is impossible? Is it an attitude based on some unfounded fears? Why is impossible a huge hurdle that all billions of us have faced sometime or other and most of us have acknowledged it as well!

The setting and timing however are intangible items that are far more real than a complex mesh of mindset. We cannot have robots sitting in Mercury today. In today’s timing, it is an impossible task to achieve this mission even in the next 5 years. A grade 5 child in remote part of the country cannot read Grade 2 text. To have him learn calculus in the next 2 years is impossible. So is it really just a mindset problem?

To claim it to be possible maybe a very egalitarian  and optimistic view point but to make it possible needs reform in the structure which in some cases may not see light in his/her lifetime. So isn’t their claim of task being impossible real? It could be temporary in the large scheme of things when plotted over millions of people and their lives but for that child it is real.

Does that imply that, “Impossible is nothing” is like a speck in the cloud of motivational dust, perhaps like the pole star in the milky way that can provide direction for some and for some it’s a mere a bright star!

Sunayna Uberoy, Alumnus, I Am A Teacher

My view on Literacy

One_Laptop_per_Child_at_Kagugu_Primary_School,_Kigali,_Rwanda-19Sept2009

Image from Rory Cellan

While working with children of Grade 7, I understood the need for them to engage in literacy not just via the traditional pen and paper but also through digital media. Lets face it – our children are digital natives. They engage with technology more readily and with far more enthusiasm. In return, it helps them build creativity, imagination and visual recall.

Technology may be an essential element of new age literacy, however after being in the classrooms and looking at the learning trends for children, I firmly believe that writing is still a core need for learning and a step towards higher standard of literacy. With writing, children not only gain an in depth understanding of the concept but are also able to articulate with precision. During assessments children who were in the habit of writing were able to present their answers much better and their understanding of the concepts was also more visible. This habit will definitely be an advantage in this era of globalization, where proper communication is a necessity when dealing with culturally and linguistically diverse groups.

Sadly, with shorthand and acronyms from social media spilling over into daily usage, it is the quality of written content that is suffering. Not only has our spoken language been “chutneyfied” as put by linguist Rita Kothari but even the written is being crucified. It is fashionable now to write Hindi in English, to punctuate with smileys instead of full stops, and to be pithy rather than precise. What is disturbing about this trend is the impact even on non-verbal communication. Just the other day, I overheard two children sharing a joke which culminated into an utterance of “LOL”. There was no trace of a smile on their faces. Emotional responses are getting acronymized along with the language.

headache

Image from xkcd

In this light, I would argue that we cannot lose sight of the 3Rs (Reading, Writing, Arithmetic) in the journey towards the 4Es (Engage, Explore, Explain, Evaluate). An emphasis on language would not be misplaced keeping in mind the constant onslaught of short form digital content. It is only by developing the habit of reading and writing that we can nurture articulate and effective communicators. The 21st century skills (critical thinking, problem solving, reasoning, analysis, interpretation, synthesizing information) cannot be gained without building a strong foundation of literacy.

Sunayna Uberoy, Alumnus, I Am A Teacher

 

Classroom Culture

The only working model of socialism I have ever seen is in an elementary school classroom

-R.M.Arcejaegar

blog

Most classroom practices, rules and practices are rooted

in the school values

According to my observations, I feel each teacher lends a unique flavour to his/her class. Each seemingly insignificant action of the teacher is actually not a random but a well thought out act. The teacher is the role model, and by being consistent in his/her practices and behaviour, he/she becomes the living example of the values. The students invariably pick up and inculcate these values.

The classroom norms and practices are arrived at after discussions amongst all the students of the class. All the ideas and thoughts are considered and there is active participation by all the students. The value of ‘inclusion’ is very evident as children show receptivity to all ideas. The norms are not imposed by the teacher. The students realise the importance of having certain guidelines for the smooth functioning of the class. Since they exercise freedom in choosing their own rules, they feel responsible to follow the norms as well.

There is a sense of ownership and it is displayed in almost all the actions of the students. The students play an active role in implementing all the routines – taking attendance, distributing stationary and journals, collecting and arranging books in the book corner, arranging bottles in the bottle corner etc. The striking feature of such practices is that students become more attentive and aware and are thus in a better position to notice inefficiencies and take corrective action. For instance, the student in charge of organising the bottle corner every morning noticed the chaos that ensued in the afternoon when students rushed to collect their bottles. The following morning she requested for permission to distribute bottles to all the students at the time of closure to avoid the chaos.

One of the most important value that is being cultivated in the students is to practice self-discipline. Whether it is listening attentively while others are speaking, waiting for their turn before speaking, winding up the tables, arranging the chairs back under the table each time children get up so as to not block the path, or waiting patiently for their turn to move out of the classroom without obstructing others’ way – each of these practices convey an underlying value of respecting others.

Social learning is also very important aspect in the classroom. The teacher utilises various opportunities to encourage children to reflect on their conduct. For instance, an accidental fall of a middle school student in the corridor while running, was used as an opportunity to initiate a discussion on reinforcing the rules to walk down corridors. In such a process, students observe the behaviour of others and its consequences, and as a result modify their own behaviour.

Similarly peer learning is also an integral part of the classroom. The children are seated in crews to facilitate group work. Children are assigned in groups after a careful examination of various factors. For instance very fluent readers are paired with progressing readers, a high energy child paired with a low energy child and so on. Children who are able to finish their tasks early welcome the opportunity of helping their peers. There is no competitiveness, rather children appreciate and applaud the progress made by their peers as they feel equally responsible in contributing to peer learning.

To sum it up, the classroom culture is more about co-operation and self esteem rather than comparison and thus provides a joyful learning experience to all the students.

Harjeet Kaur, Resident- I am a Teacher

Re-imagining Teachers

The video above is a dilagoue between educators on re-imagining what is desirable in teachers and how to build that.

My Reflections on the Village Expedition

~~ Reflections by IAAT Residents on their expedition to two of the villages in Haryana ~~

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“As a child, summer vacations meant visiting my maternal uncle, who owns a farm in a village. So the mention of a village always brought back images of a self-reliant, agriculture-based unit where life, though full of challenges, was based on diligent hard work and a simple way of living. All villagers worked as per the skill and resources they had. Government aid was limited and its distribution questionable, as was evident from the daily issues for which the villagers sought help from my uncle. Caste –system deeply pervaded daily life, and education was only a means to attain literacy, usually only for the male members of the family, with no desire to learn and grow as an individual…

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My Reflection on the trip to Camp Chrysalid

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Was it an eye-opener, or was it a mirror, was it about self awareness or self empowerment , was it about learning how to be a teacher or about how to be a human being. Lying under the stars I thought to myself…. aren’t we just like these stars, that shine because of the light within. Just like each star needs the support of the clouds , the city lights to be low, the pollution levels to be low for it to be visible, the IAAT faculty is the support and the space to us today. The challenge is to find the light within regardless of this “space” and support. We need to overcome our fears whether it is a fear of heights or fear of being alone or fear of fire or simply the fear to express openly. I can now appreciate how critical it is to create that space for ourselves , for other, and for every child to express freely. We need to step out of our comfort zones aka our nice comfy beds and step into the world with kids that are easy to work with and kids that are not so easy to work with , aka into our sleeping bags in the harsh cold climate. Every activity seemed strange to be in a camp for being a teacher, but in hind sight it was highly appropriate. It was analogous to the barriers that we need to surpass.

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I am…

I am a dreamer

I am a learner

I am a believer

I build a nation

I am a Teacher 


A movement and a force to regain our pride as teachers and connect with the important work we have. We need belief; in ourselves, our work and in our children. Only when we believe, we make it happen.

We can change the world. Can we trust this and not treat it as mere rhetoric?

Only when we realize our potential, we can help our children to discover their true potential.Who we are matters more than what we teach. We have known all along that we have to live whatever we expect from our children. If we want them to be life long learners, then we have to be chief learners ourselves.

So let’s come together and share and learn in our journey of  discovering the teacher within….

अभिलाषा

पग-पग में है अभिलाषा ,अनु-अनु में है मृदुभाषा
जीवन है पल-पल इक आशा,”मैं”उस आशा की परिभाषा …..

नन्ही-नन्ही बूंदों और कलियों के,मन-मल्हार के हम साथी
भावों से विचारों तक के हम-तुम हैं इक माझी
पग-पग में है अभिलाषा ,अनु-अनु में है मृदुभाषा
जीवन है पल-पल इक आशा,”मैं”उस आशा की परिभाषा …..

सतरंगी स्वप्नों से आगे बढ़ने और लड़ने की राह
पंख पसार, अपने जग में मानवता भरने की मेरी चाह
पग-पग में है अभिलाषा ,अनु-अनु में है मृदुभाषा
जीवन है पल-पल इक आशा,”मैं”उस आशा की परिभाषा …..

नव-चेतन मेरे मन से,मन के मेरे हर कण-कण से
अनुभव और संभव का नाता,करते-चलते ही बन जाता
पग-पग में है अभिलाषा ,अनु-अनु में है मृदुभाषा
जीवन है पल-पल इक आशा,”मैं”उस आशा की परिभाषा …..

पहचान मेरी है ये ही,उत्सुक आँखों को बतलाऊँ
संयम और धीरज से ही जग में “मैं”कहलाऊँ
पग-पग में है अभिलाषा ,अनु-अनु में है मृदुभाषा
जीवन है पल-पल इक आशा,”मैं”उस आशा की परिभाषा …..

                                                                          – (प्रतिभा)

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